By Tyler Shoberg, Associate Editor
Volunteer is a Finalist for NAHC Mentor of the Year
Vote for Jim Long of the Lancaster Chapter before Dec. 7
Jim Long scanned the skies from the stern of his flat-bottom boat as a brisk north wind whipped rising fog down the Susquehanna River. There was no place he’d rather be on a chilly November morning.
But the diehard Pennsylvania waterfowl hunter didn’t need to pull the trigger on a flock of decoying mallards to be happy. Rather, the youth director for the Lancaster Chapter of Delta Waterfowl hoped his boatload of novice hunters would have a chance at ducks.
It was yet another outing for Lancaster’s First Hunt Team, a mentorship program Long helped spur into existence that pairs novice waterfowl hunters with mentors for the long term — not just one hunt.
Alongside Long and his 18-year-old son, Jeff, were two First Hunt Team participants. Long had taken Brandon Groff under his wing, and although no longer a greenhorn waterfowler after a few hunting trips, the 13-year-old had yet to down his first duck. Justin Clough, 28, had grown up hunting in his home state of Maine, but never for ducks or geese. When the wounded veteran had read about First Hunt Team in the local paper, Long and his chapter members eagerly brought Clough into the program.
“Don’t move,” Long hissed. The crew froze. Two-dozen mallards made a surprise sneak swing from behind the boat. They cupped cautiously into the light breeze, temptingly hanging just long enough to assess the decoys.
With a duck call to his lips, Long attempted to persuade the flock within shotgun range. He took just enough time for a quick lesson.
“You call when they’re going away, then quit when they turn toward you,” he explained, blowing a quick five-note sequence for emphasis. The flock turned.
One pass, two passes — each time the wary birds appeared willing to light, only to flare out of range. Eventually, the ducks landed 100 yards upstream.
“Dang,” Long said, with a sigh. “I thought you boys were going to get some shooting this morning.”
After a few hours soak, the hunters called it quits without firing a shot – at least for the morning. Long’s work was far from over.
He quickly drove home, unhooked his boat, repacked the truck, hitched a decoy trailer and prepared for an afternoon Canada goose field hunt. Nearly 20 people, including First Hunt Team mentors, hunters and their parents, were going to be there, and it was up to him to make sure everything was set.
All in a day’s work for the dedicated Delta member, and why he was recently named one of six finalists for the North American Hunting Club’s Mentor of the Year Program. The winner will be awarded a prize package that includes a 2013 turkey hunt and trip to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Delta members can vote — as many times as they wish — for Long at www.nahcmentor.com. Online voting ends Dec. 7.
Lancaster Chapter chairman Matt Kneisley knew Long would make an ideal youth director from the get-go. His passion for teaching kids about the outdoors and hunting is boundless. “Jim has a big heart, and he’s a family man,” Kneisley said. “Plus, he’s dependable. If I say we need something done, he’s on it.”
Long was instrumental in the formation of the Lancaster Chapter in 2010, and has since been a tireless workhorse with a hand in every event the chapter rolls out. To those who work alongside him, Long definitely is worthy of the NAHC Mentor of the Year award.
But for Long, no matter the outcome, his main goal is to continue teaching kids about the outdoors, waterfowl and hunting.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the expression and the enjoyment they feel, and hearing the excitement in a young boy’s or girl’s voice after being in a blind for hours and shooting that first duck,” Long said. “The real honor is to mentor youth and to continue drawing youth into the outdoors.”